Veteran Turns Adversity into Chance to Change Lives

A Texas Broker/Owner has a mission to serve military members and their families

By Rebecca L. Olgeirson
Levi Rodgers RE/MAX Broker/OWner
Levi Rodgers

Afghanistan. September 15, 2009. An IED roadside explosion kills four U.S. soldiers on patrol, leaving one surviving Green Beret bloodied, burned and broken. Another soldier happens upon him and drags him to safety. They wait five hours together until a rescue helicopter arrives and ultimately saves the Green Beret’s life.

That explosion had a huge impact on the severely injured Green Beret, who had a wife and two sons waiting for him at home. It changed the very course of his life.

Today, the Green Beret owns and leads a RE/MAX franchise, RE/MAX Military City in San Antonio, Texas, with a singular mission: Serving veterans by putting military families first.

“My whole goal is to show the world that my people – military people – can do anything,” says Levi Rodgers.

A Defining Moment

A career serviceman who joined the army at age 18, Rodgers rose through the ranks before his detachment encountered that IED. Forty-five days after the blast, he awoke from a medically induced coma in San Antonio to learn the horrifying details of the attack and the extent of his injuries. He had broken bones all over except for his arms and neck, and he had sustained burns on 40 percent of his body.

With his wife, Erika, at his bedside, Rodgers realized he had a bigger purpose.

“I was the lone survivor. Four men died under my command, and it changed my perspective on life,” says Rodgers, who earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Legion of Merit for his service. “It left me with a tremendous need to have a positive impact on people’s lives. My purpose now is to give back.”

Alive and walking with the use of a prosthetic exo-skeleton over his damaged leg, Rodgers contemplated his next move.

Levi Rodgers RE/MAX
Levi (on motorcycle) during a tour of duty

The seed had already been planted for a career in real estate. Earlier, when he was a young soldier at Fort Bragg, Rodgers had worked with a Realtor, Gary Landon, who steered him out of a bad deal and into a good one. After he was discharged from the Army and ready to relocate his family to Texas, Rodgers sold that property for a considerable gain, which helped keep the family afloat for a few months.

“Thirty seconds of honesty from a Realtor can change a person’s life,” he says. “It did for me.”

That deal inspired Rodgers to earn his real estate license. Soon after, he impulsively stopped at RE/MAX North San Antonio IV on the drive home one day.

“I had my big prosthetic exo-skeleton on my leg, and I dragged myself into that office,” Rodgers says. He asked about joining the office as an agent. Broker/Owner Kate Keating happily welcomed him to the team.

“What I noticed about Levi right away was his drive,” says Keating. “Hecame in with an attitude of ‘I want to do this, and I’m going to succeed at it.’”

Thirty seconds of honesty from a Realtor can change a person’s life. It did for me.Levi Rodgers

And of course he did. In his first nine months, Rodgers cleared $100,000 in gross commissions. Later, he started a team, doubled his sales each year, and earned his way into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame.

“I owe a lot to Kate Keating and her leadership,” Rodgers says. “I say I hobbled into her office a beginner – and walked out of it a success.”

Keating says Rodgers has the right mix of work ethic, personality and honesty.

“Levi is Levi, and he’s a real force,” Keating says. “He always said he was going to show other wounded vets that ‘If I can do this, so can you.’ It’s as though he wasn’t working only for himself, but for all vets.”

On April 1, 2016, Rodgers began the next chapter of his RE/MAX career, opening his own brokerage – RE/MAX Military – in San Antonio.

Building Military City

Rodgers’ story is extraordinary, but his service isn’t a slogan. And his suffering isn’t a marketing tool.

“I’m OK, and now I need to make sure everyone else is OK,” he says.

Military families face challenges in civilian life. Service members struggle to find occupations that match their training. Spouses often sacrifice their own careers to care for children during deployment or the wounded when they return. So Rodgers concentrates on a universal upside of a military background – the training, responsibility and teamwork engrained in the culture.

“I’m a success because of my military training. You show up on time, in the right uniform, and you do what you say you’re going to do,” Rodgers says. “That discipline is an asset in any business.”

His office has eight agents and six staff members, and half of the group has a military family background. His listing coordinator, Eva Lyles, is a military spouse whose injured ex-husband was in rehab with Rodgers.

“I was a military mom for 10 years, and I had no experience except for taking care of my babies,” Lyles says. “But Levi encouraged me to go to school. He told me he’d have a place for me in his business. He’s changed my life.”

Rodgers runs his office with military precision. Lyles says it’s a plus for the staff. “There’s a no-nonsense atmosphere here, and that’s what we prefer,” she says. “But, like the military, it’s more than just an office. It feels like a family.”

I’m a success because of my military training. You show up on time, in the right uniform, and you do what you say you’re going to do.Levi Rodgers

The military ethos translates to the service provided to customers as well. Rodgers educated himself on the real estate benefits available to returning veterans. He specializes in serving their unique needs and situations. Rodgers says he’s made it his life’s mission to understand the loans available to military personal. He knows every line of the VA loan and the Texas Vet Loan, and can tell clients if it’s in their best interest to use these financial tools.

“Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not,” Rodgers explains. “If they’re going to move in two years, it’s better not to use these.”

When it comes to his quick success in real estate – having entered the field only four years ago – Rodgers says his wife deserves all the credit. Erika experienced her own trauma following his injury, and her unwavering support makes everything possible.

“Oftentimes, the military family takes the biggest hit. They suffer just as much as the veteran, if not more,” Rodgers says. “When you see a veteran in the wheelchair, before you shake his or her hand, shake the hand of the person pushing the wheelchair.”

There’s definitely a bond at RE/MAX Military City. In fact, the soldier who in 2009 found Rodgers on that Afghanistan roadside is a member of the team as well.

“Pedro saved my life that day,” Rodgers says. “And talk about loyalty. If I need him at the office at 8 a.m., he’s always there. When you have military training, you have that kind of work ethic.”

Rodgers recently started a self-funded philanthropy, “Bullets to Buildings,” that places military personnel in internships within the real estate industry, and he’s contracted with Fort Sam Houston as a resource. With the right training, Rodgers says, these veterans will be prepared to succeed in the civilian world when the time comes.

“I have an obligation to my fellow military personnel, and I will always honor it,” he says. “It will never end.”

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26 comments

This is an amazing story!!!!! I salute you, Mr. Levi Rodgers for the blessing you are to other vets. God created you with purpose and you are walking in it. God continue to bless you, Sir!

You are a true Amercan Hero!!!! I salute you in everything you do!!!! Thank You for being a person my son can look up too!

@Leia Buddin,

Thank you so much for your words… I must say, that I am not a hero however… That word should be reserved people that have done much more than I have done. Men such as Josh Mills, Brad Bohle, Shawn McCloskey, and Rasool our interpreter, these men gave their lives for our nation and paid the ultimate sacrifice while operating in the face of the enemies of our country. It is men such as them and their families that our nation owes a debt of gratitude and respect…

I am simply making the best of a very blessed situation. Four human beings lost their lives under my direction, I simply have no choice but to live life to the fullest and to ensure that this wonderful opportunity at life that I was given by God is not taken for granted and I take care of my people every day that I am on this earth.

Thank you so much and God Bless…!!!

I’m proud to call you my cousin, Levi. Your drive to succeed reminds me somewhat of my father who blew in from Oklahoma during the dust bowl with nothing and succeeded as a rancher. You certainly have his work ethics. You have an amazing story, and an amazing life ahead of you. Thank you for your service.

@ Margaret Rodgers,

Thank you so very much for your comment…!!! Hard work and the great work ethic of our family is literally one of the foundations in which helped my get where we our at today. So truly blessed…!!!

Thank you again so much for your comment…!!!

This is all very true Levi ! You saved me and Jerry ! We could not have made it with out you and your family support . You were always their for us and still are . We love you and Erika and Calob and Owen . Words can not describe how special you are to us ! You took everything that we had to deal with packing us up with the community that you got together sold our home so fast . And most of all you and Erika took care of my broken heart and gave Jerry and I so much Love and honesty . Their is no one else in this world I would have taken care of us then you Levi Rodgers !! Y’all r our family ,friend realtor . We Love you so much !! Thank you again for everything you have done for us and still doing !

@Norma and Jerry,
Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. When I awoke from the coma, I found out very quickly the value of a many things: God, Marriage, Family, Friends, Brotherhood, Neighbors, Community, and so much more…. There were friends that left work abruptly to come be by Erikas side, there were churches that provided food and comfort to my family and prayers for my health and recovery, there were past men and families I serv d with that stopped everything in their lives to help my wife and kids, while I fight for mine…. There were businessmen in New Jersey, The Sam Raia Family, who gave my family an apartment to sleep in as the hotel began to be too cramped and uncomfortable for my family, there were neighbors who watched our dogs, so many doctors who fought frantically to save my life, and the families who lost their lives ones in the same attack they offered their thoughts and prayers for my life to be spared…. Bottom line, Many people came to our side.

Who or What on Earth Would I be if I didn’t give back…? It is my duty to give back, not only to my people, but to all people. So Norma, I appreciate your grattitude, it’s truly flattering… However it’s not needed whatsoever… We were here for you and Jerry because you are our friends, and that what friends do. That’s what our friends and loved ones showed us they do when we needed help.

In a few of my speeches I have said that “It is Through Trauma in which one will find True Love and Friendship” what I mean by that is that if you ever want to know who loves you, look around after the bomb goes off and when no one is looking….. That bomb can be many things… Not just Militarily.

Bottom line, trauma doesn’t always have to be through warfare…. Cancer, Car Wrecks, death, disease, divorce and so much more…. Through Trauma, One Will Find Those that Truly Care about them.

Norma and Jerry, You guys are so special to Erika and I… Anything that you need, just let us know and also, please know that the wonderful residents and neighborhood of Triana in Helotes deserves credit as well, for without such great neighbors that came together to help… Nothing would have had happened so fast and flawless. We Love you guys and you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers daily.

I write this as I am staying up all night tonight as there is a crazy lightning and hail storms hitting Helotes, Texas tonight and there was unfortunately a home in Triana that appears that it was struck by lightning and caught fire.

Thank God the family is okay… One never knows what God has in store for them the next day. Life must be treated with an immense value and never taken for granted. Although you have moved, We will drive our butts to Houston from San Antonio in a nano second if you guys need anything…! Thank you both and God Bless…!!!

Respectfully,
Levi Rodgers

WOW! my Salute to Mr. Rodgers and all our Vets. Thank you for take care our Vets. We are free thank for people like you, we need people with honestly. God bless you always.

@L Hernandez,
Thank you for your comments…!!! Many men and women have served far before me and many have contributed far more than I have…. I do not need any credit or praise.

I do however agree with you in the statement that we need to take care of our Veterans. Our Veterans provide the lifeline to this country through so much sacrifice that can oftentimes go unnoticed and uncared for. Our country has done a much better job taking care of our Veterans of Post 9-11 Wars and Conflicts in comparison to the Vietnam, Korea, Grenada, Gulf War and other Conflicts and Wars, as the are many prior Veterans and families that still need help and assistance from Prior Wars and Conflicts that simply are not getting the help from the VA or Military that they should. I literally se it almost every day as I will get a phone call from a Veteran or a Disabled Vet that has never learned or used their VA or Texas Vet Housing a benefits, or entitlements, nor ever been told that they qualify for help in other ways as well… And I am just one guy, and talking about one subject, housing, there are so many of my fellow Veterans in need of assistance and simply do not know where or how to get help.

I feel that Veteran Suicide and Veteran Joblessness are two of our biggest Vet issues today, and in my opinion and experience, I believe that they are related…. The problems we face will only be fixed from within, those of us that have experienced, or are currently experiencing a successful transition into the civilian world, it is our obligation, not our option, our obligation to help our people as our problems will only be fixed from within our ranks.

I also feel that it is not only the responsibility the United States Government to take care of, and help our people, however it is also the responsibility every successfully transitioned military service member or military family member out there to reach back into the community and to help our people in some manner.

Thank you so much for your words sir… Sorry for the long reply. I am up all night tonight 🙂

Levi, you are what every military vet should be, a survivor. We can take the worst and make it work, because we know we can. There is no giving up, when we give up people die or are hurt, that drive pushes us to the limits of what every person is capable gf but many times unwilling to do for themselves or others. God Bless you for taking the lead.

Congratulations my dear friend! It is with tears of joy that I have watched you progress from your hospital bed, to a brand new Realtor, and to where you are in our business today. Truly unbelievable. Many talk about giving back…..and never do. You are already giving back in so many ways. Thank God you are there for so many deserving people. I am so very proud to call you my close friend.

@ Pat Fitzgerald,
Thank you so much for your kind words sir. You hold a special place in my heart and always will… You are the man that virtually slapped me on the back of the head and got me going in the right direction with Real estate and taught me everything that I know on Texas Vet and VA Loans and Veteran Real Estate. For that, I am forever grateful and genuinely appreciative of everything that you have and continue to do for me. You are a true friend and moreover, a true mentor.

I have learned so much from you and you are a shining example of the fact that there are many who have not serve that serve everyday. The work and help that I have seen you provide towards the Veteran Community here in San Antonio is truly amazing. Thank you !!!

Even when I needed a second slap on the back of the head, you were there for me, and I want you to know that your friendship means the world to me.

Thank you again for your kind words…!!!

Respectfully,
Levi Rodgers

Levi,
you’re right. Nobody succeeds alone! Thank you and your family for your service. Congratulations to you, your team and Erika who is the straw on the brick with your “next tour of duty”! You have been blessed and now have a calling to help others !!! Continue to fight the good fight and keep the faith!

@ Greg Avestas,

Thank you for your words sir…! Your right… My wife, Erika is truly wonderful. She put up with so much stuff, and has managed and continues to manage so much as well.. She is probably one of the worlds most qualified project managers ever.

For her to get notified on an afternoon and move the very next day to Texas from Fort Bragg, NC… Live in a hotel for a couple months and not know wether I was going to live or die, then all the while keep the family together and ensure the kids are fed and educated daily, and sit by my bedside all day etc etc… This woman is amazing.

She still to this day keeps everything together for me… On my restless nights, when I need my medication, when I need help with anything, she is there for me, without question and without hesitation. Erika Rodgers is the Quintessential Military Spouse… Literally no better woman alive.

The U.S. Army Special Forces, The Green Berets, are oftentimes referred to as “The Quiet Professionals”… It is the spouse of this Green Beret that is the true Quiet Professional and Silent Warrior… Behind the scenes for over 15 deployments keeping me happy and ready to fight, and keeping our family together and strong.

It is all of the behind the scenes stuff that these Military Spouses do… It has such a direct effect on the capability and combat effectiveness of the warfighter… My wife Erika, not only kept me ready and fit for action on a daily basis before I was wounded, but during and definitely after the injury, she has been by my side since… Remaining humble and remaining strong and loyal to the commitment of marriage as Green Beret Wives do on a daily basis. These women, in most cases need to be awarded medals for their commitment to not only their husbands, however their nation. I feel that the Military Spouse is truly “The Forgotten Warrior” and without the love and commitment of women like the woman that I am so lucky to have by my side, I am not so sure that our wars would be won so decisively.

That you again sir!
Levi

Hi Levi – It’s been a joy to watch your real estate career from launching pad to the stratosphere. You are a blessing and inspiration to us all. I learned today that my son will soon be deployed to Afghanistan. I can only hope he’ll serve beside people like you. All the best!

Mr. Gray,
Thank you so much for your kind words. I would never have been able to launch this business the way we have without The help and support of men such as yourself and the support of RE/MAX of Texas and RE/MAX, LLC.

I vividly remember when I met you and we had lunch with Mr. Richard Fillip. Right from the start, this has been meant to be and I am so honored to be with RE/MAX and receive all the support you all have given me…!!!

I will keep your son and entire family in our thoughts and prayers. If there is ever anything that I can do to help, please let me know. I still know a few people here and there… 🙂

Respectfully,
Levi Rodgers

I’ve come across a lot of different folks in my real estate career. I’ve never heard your life story till today. Life, puts us on the path we are suppose to be on. It’s up to us to walk that path. Happy for you Levi. I wish you much success

Levi,
I support you in your vision to put your military skill set and those of other Veterans into the Real Estate profession. I have been a Realtor since 1980 and with RE/MAX for over 26 years – our profession is about assisting clients with one of the most important financial decisions they will ever make.

My daughter’s brother CPT Andrew Pedersen Keel Special Forces was killed in Afghanistan in 2013 she has made it her life’s mission to honor him by assisting other Veterans and their families through Warrior For Life, Connected Warriors and yoga for PTSD and TBI. She recently teamed up with me at RE/MAX Advance Realty and we are working to assist Military families and Veterans in purchasing Homes in our Miami area.

I wish you continued success with your company. Thank you for making a difference!

My hope is that all service men and women realize the American dream of homeownership. With great people like Levi and Pedro that can happen. You are first class in my book. You care about men and women who serve and who have served. Continue to do the great work that you do. Thank you for your service!

Levi – you are doing exactly what you said you’d do when you became a REALTOR! Congratulations on your success.

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